"Dark Touch"
"Dark Touch"
"Dark Touch," Marina De Van. France/Ireland, 2013, 90 minutes

Mining one of Tribeca’s proven strengths – albeit not too deeply, Carrie -- Part Deux comes from this French horror director, as the furniture speaks the deadly truths that can’t be uttered, at speeds that can and do kill.  Pretentious enough? Ireland is the location of a child’s telekinetic revenge on those around her. Young Neve is uneasy in this world. Eventually we find out why, after her parents are killed when their haunted house implodes. Then another home where a well-meaning family shelters Neve also comes apart.  There are more unseen impulses than you can shake a chair at in this dreadfully humorless exercise in designer special effects. Performances are poker-faced, although the logistics are all executed right – you’ll be laughing at the seriousness of it all. 


"Before Snowfall," Hisham Zaman, Germany/Norway, 105 minutes

"Before Snowfall" looks like a horror film when young Siyar (Taher Abdullah Taher) is wrapped in plastic and submerged in a tanker truck so he can sneak out of Iraq and into Turkey. His goal in this road saga by the Kurdish director Hisham Zaman is to avenge the honor of his family after his sister deserts her husband to be before their entire village assembles for a wedding.  The journey takes him all the way to Norway – the film premiered at the Trondheim Film Festival there – and it’s safe to say that this is not a trip that you would want make by hitch-hiking.  The illegal foreigner’s journey through Europe is now a staple of the festival circuit. This new one shows you the lengths to which people will go  -- here, however, it’s nota finding a job, but about serving a venerable and despicable tradition of murdering women who are perceived by man to have brought dishonor upon a family. Be prepared for a twist once young Siyar reaches his destination.  Fine cinematography here – from radiant landscapes in Kurdistan to the claustrophobic inside of trucks.


"Ali Blue Eyes"  -- Claudio Giovannesi, Italy, 2012

It used to be that Italian immigration sagas witnessed the toll of the internal immigration of poor rural illiterate southerners to the factories of the prosperous North (Rocco and His Brothers). Now Italy is absorbing immigrants from all over Africa and Eastern Europe, and turning many more away. Nader (Nader Sarhan) in Ali Blue Eyes is an Egyptian of 16 in this low-budget neo-neorealist tale inspired by a Pasolini poem, written to a boy named Ali. The story is boilerplate alienation of a kid from what we might now call the extended Middle East, caught between street mob culture and a conservative family. He’s also trapped among kids in bad schools with no jobs on the horizon, unless you call the Rumanian mafia a default employer – all in drab Italian settings, seasoned with zenophobia, that don’t appear in any magazine’s travel section. You wonder why Italians themselves aren’t still emigrating. Claudia Giovannesi gets the texture right, although you won’t get any of Pasolini’s poetry. Without that poetry, you get savagery, minus the nobility. Look for multiple Romeo and Juliet / West Side Story echoes. 


"Wadjda," Haifaa Al-Mansour, Germany, 2012, 97 minutes   

The first feature to be shot entirely in Saudi Arabia is a girl’s coming of age in Saudi society, which still denies basic rights to women. The eponymous Wadjda follows its title character (Reem Abdullah) from home, where her father’s rule is absolute, to a school run by women, where Wahabi Islam dictates behavior, and all the girls try to get away with something rebellious, no matter how small. The most minimal exercise of autonomy  -- riding a bike -- is a triumph for young Wadjda. Will this warm-hearted motivational story change anything close to Mecca? Probably not, since it was filmed mostly in interiors and on rooftops where no one could watch. For a movie shot on the run, the cinematography is remarkably vivid.  The religious police can’t be happy that Sony Classics is releasing Wadjda. Watch for a nomination for Reem Abdullah.


"Broken Circle Breakdown," Felix van Groeningen, Netherlands/Belgium, 2013

Berlin’s Audience Award winner is a teary crowd-pleaser set in what looks like a ranch where a Belgian bluegrass banjo player finds the tattooed cowgirl of his heart. No kidding. Before you can say Orange Blossom Special, Didier and Elise have a little girl, Maybelle. Their bliss breaks down when the adorable child gets cancer. If you aren’t won over by the heartbreak of it all – I wasn’t – the novelty of a Belgian bluegrass band might still be enough. Once again, every country has a tearjerker punctuated with goofy laughs like this one, if not dozens of them. Broken Circle Breakdown will still have a long run in US festivals.